After the report came out that Jets restricted free agent defenseman Jacob Trouba had asked for a trade out of Winnipeg, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff stated that he would do what’s “best for the team” in handling the situation. Although the Jets have all of the leverage – Trouba’s only choice other than to re-sign with Winnipeg or accept a trade and sign is to play overseas – they are on the clock to figure out what to do about the young blue liner. With Dustin Byfuglien, Tyler Myers, and Paul Postma already on the roster, losing Trouba would not be as catastrophic for the Jets as it would be for most teams, but they are also not going to just give him away. A young, right-shot defenseman is one of the most valuable assets in the NHL, and the Jets should be able to get quite the package in return for Trouba. However, that price will inevitably drop the further the stand-off lasts into the regular season, and should the Jets fail to make a move by December 1st, the signing deadline for RFA’s, then Trouba will not be allowed to play at all in 2016-17 and the price will plummet.
Nearly every team in the NHL is probably kicking the tires on Trouba right now, but the list of teams who are actually willing and capable of making the deal is actually fairly short. Although Trouba’s agent Kevin Overhardt says that the main reason that Trouba wants out of Winnipeg is the lack of opportunity behind Byfuglien and Myers, the relationship between the team and the young defenseman began to break down last year when it was reported that Trouba was looking for $7MM per year. If the 22-year-old really is holding to a $6MM to $7MM yearly price tag, several D-needy teams with cap troubles, like the Detroit Red Wings, New York Rangers, and Colorado Avalanche may have a difficult time making a deal without sending significant salary the other way. The problem with that is whether Winnipeg is willing to take on high-salary players. Their ideal package will likely include a young left-shot defenseman and a young forward, rather than any high-priced veterans. With that criteria in mind, here are the most likely destinations for Trouba if his trade request does pan out:
The Coyotes are actually very deep on the right side of the blue line, with Michael Stone, Connor Murphy, Luke Schenn and Zbynek Michalek in the fold, but have long been pursuing a true top-pair partner for Oliver Ekman-Larsson. They are also armed with the deepest prospect system in the NHL, and could offer the Jets any number of elite young forwards to make this deal happen. If Winnipeg holds tight to their request for a young lefty defenseman, it’s possible that GM John Chayka could part with 2016 first-rounder Jakob Chychrun. If he’s not, the pickings are slim at left defense. The Coyotes have the most quality young talent up front to offer the Jets, but would also have to suffer a high cost as a Western Conference competitor. Arizona has been connected to Trouba in the rumor mill for months, but are they willing to pay the price to get him?
The Bruins defense is nothing to write home about. In fact, a team that was the best two-way squad in the league a few short years ago has missed the playoffs is back-to-back years due mostly in part to poor play on the back end. Boston is slated to enter the 2016-17 season with Colin Miller, Kevan Miller, and Adam McQuaid as their starters on the right side, even though all three would be bottom pair or extra defenseman on most teams in the NHL. Colin Miller has potential, as does Brandon Carlo, who is looking to win a job this year, and 2016 first-rounder Charlie McAvoy looks like a future star. That won’t stop GM Don Sweeney from jumping at the chance to acquire a young right-shot stalwart though. The Bruins have the roster and cap space to bring in Trouba and put him on the top pair with Torey Krug or Zdeno Chara. The question for the Bruins is whether or not they have the pieces to make it happen. At left defense, Krug is untouchable and former top picks Joe Morrow and Linus Arnesson have yet to establish themselves as reliable pros. The Jets would have to accept a top prospect like Jakub Zboril or Jeremy Lauzon at the position, as well as one or more of the Bruins deep group of forward prospects. The Bruins do have more to choose from in quality centers in the system, Winnipeg’s biggest need up front, than the Coyotes or Maple Leafs do. The last time the Jets (read: Thrashers) made a deal with the Bruins, they ended up with captain Blake Wheeler. The pair could swing another big deal with Trouba.
The situation with Edmonton is pretty cut-and-dry. A young team on the cusp of finally putting it all together, the Oilers still have concerns on defense even after trading away Taylor Hall to get Adam Larsson. If they could add Trouba to the mix, it would be a great addition. However, the cost would be a young roster defenseman on the left side, whether that’s Darnell Nurse, Oscar Klefbom, or maybe Griffin Reinhart. Depending on which one, other picks and prospects would be involved as well. Not only a conference opponent, but also a Canadian rival, Edmonton will not get Trouba at a discount rate from Winnipeg. If GM Peter Chiarelli is unwilling to part with one of his current defensive core, the Oilers lack the ability to bring in Trouba.
New Jersey Devils
The Devils defense is perhaps the worst in the NHL. They also have more available cap space than nearly any other team. Acquiring Trouba makes too much sense for the Devils, but can they get it done? If the Jets aren’t interested in Jon Merrill, New Jersey has almost nothing to offer at left defense. GM Ray Shero could offer up a 1st-round pick instead, guaranteed to be a lottery pick, and a top prospect like Pavel Zacha or one of their two 2016 1st-rounders, but whether he would do that and whether Winnipeg would accept it is another thing. The Devils will likely try hard for Trouba, but are only as likely as the teams with no cap space to somehow force a deal. The fit doesn’t seem to be there.
Toronto Maple Leafs
It would be nearly impossible for the Red Wings to fit Trouba’s new contract on the books, and also very hard for the Rangers or Avs to find the flexibility. Just inside the range of teams who could somehow make it work are the Maple Leafs. With only import Nikita Zaitsev and veteran Roman Polak as right-shot defenseman on the roster, as well as no one resembling a future top-pair righty in the system, Toronto would love to capitalize on Trouba’s availability and acquire a long-term partner for Morgan Rielly. Jake Gardiner or Martin Marincin might not be what Winnipeg is looking for, but like New Jersey, Toronto can offer a high first-rounder, or enough forward talent to offset a weaker left-shot defenseman. The fit is not great, but there are options there for GM Lou Lamoriello to make a suitable offer to the Jets.